The Colorado Department of Education announced Wednesday that Colorado high school juniors will be required to take the SAT college-entrance exam instead of the ACT starting this spring.
“I was definitely caught by surprise,” said Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger. “This is a major shift at the 11th hour.”
Superintendents across the state expressed surprise, according to a story in The Denver Post, particularly because the vote came during the holidays when schools are not in session.
The change came after a vote in May when the Colorado Legislature required the state Education Department to take competitive bids for both a college-entrance exam and a new 10th-grade exam. The state agency received bids from two companies, ACT and the College Board, which administers the SAT and Practice SAT. The PSAT will be given to 10th-graders.
A 15-member committee with members from across the state reviewed the proposals, sample tests and student reports, recommending the SAT and PSAT to the state Board of Education.
“We realize this is a big shift for students, and that this decision is coming later in the school year than any of us would like,” Interim Commissioner of Education Elliott Asp said in a news release. “We are committed to exploring options for flexibility that makes sense for this year’s juniors who need to use this spring’s exam for their college applications.”
Colorado juniors have been taking the ACT since 2001.
“This will have lots of implications that we will have to start reviewing when we go back to school,” Snowberger said. “This is very similar to when we had to change from (the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) to the (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test, when we had to start with a new baseline to monitor growth. There’s no comparability between the ACT and the SAT.”
Andy Burns, director of admissions at Fort Lewis College and president of the 9-R school board looked at the change from both sides.
“From a higher ed standpoint, the ACT measures only English and math, while the SAT also includes reading, social studies and science,” he said, “so the SAT provides more alignment between the tests and admission expectations. For 2019 graduates (when admission standards will be raised), the SAT scores will assure they’re ready.”
The rapidly changing assessment methods, however, are a different matter at the high school level.
“The ACT did provide longitudinal continuity in the otherwise chaotic world of assessments,” Burns said, “as we moved from the (Colorado Student Assessment Program) to TCAP to PARCC. I don’t think we know yet what this will mean from an operations standpoint.”
One change will probably be in the ACT preparation class offered at Durango High School.
“Students who take the class do better on the test,” Burns said. “And there are enough nuances to the tests to require a recalibration of the class to the SAT.”
The testing reform legislation also says sophomores and juniors will no longer take PARCC English and math tests. One reason the board selected the PSAT was because it will identify areas where students need additional help or can advance farther, the state education officials said.
The SAT and PSAT will be given each spring for the next five years. Dates for testing in spring 2016 have not been set.
“I am glad to see the state still requiring a college-entrance exam to prove all students are college ready,” Burns said. “In states like New Mexico, where one isn’t required, we’ll get inquiries from students in April or May of their senior year, when it’s too late for them to take the ACT or SAT for fall admission.”